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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Two Cowboys: Small Businesses and Artisans at the Spruce Meadows Christmas Market 2016 in Calgary, Alberta

Horses and Reindeer

Rudolph is sleeping. That is what we were told when we visited the Spruce Meadows Christmas Market for 2016 on opening weekend. All the other Reindeer were there. They were getting ready for the annual Christmas Night marathon with Mr Clause. Rudolph may not be disturbed. He is preparing in his way. By meditating at Spruce Meadows.

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There isn't much snow around Calgary, Alberta yet. The temperatures are dropping for sure and that means winter is here. It also means that Christmas is near.

The market at Spruce Meadows is one of the biggest in Alberta. At the market, there are more than 250 Artisan vendors that come from as far as Quebec and Nanaimo. They all make their annual pilgrimage to Alberta's Prairie city to tap into the biggest opportunity offered by Canada's fastest growing city. Some consider the market as their significant opportunity for last-minute revenue before Christmas. Call it their Christmas bonus.

The International Christmas Market is held over three weekends. This year it is November 18-20, November 25-27 and December 2-4, 2016.

Hand-Made in Alberta

There were many familiar faces at the market. They are the vendors we've met during our year of covering the area's Farmers' Markets. It is encouraging to see so many of the local producers well represented. Some local producers use the market to launch a new product or new packaging. The agricultural producers like the cheese makers, beekeepers and maple syrup vendors, all bring their products to market after the year's good harvest.

There were also new vendors that launched their products for the first time. A Christmas market is a great opportunity for fledgeling producers to validate their offering. They can give prospective customers a first-hand taste or view of their goods and solicit immediate feedback. It is also they time when they discover just how much work goes into building their businesses.

The Christmas Market is the perfect place to unwind with friends and soak up the festive atmosphere. It is the perfect place to shop, dine and socialise. It is a great opportunity to support our local producers. Spruce Meadows is the ideal venue for the market with lots of indoor space, the agricultural setting, and ample parking.

If there is one item missing from the market it would be our mobile food vendors we encountered all over Alberta's markets. We understand that the weather doesn't always co-operate to have food vendors outside. On the other hand, we've covered amazing food producers that will jump at the opportunity to help feed the thousands of visitors at this market. We are Canadian after all. Who is worried about a little cold?

Calgary may not be the most optimistic city in Canada at the moment due to continuing economic pressures. The market showed little of the recession. While spending may be under pressure in the city, local production is up. People are making more things. Christmas cakes, gloves, chocolate, bags, cheese, perogies, woodcraft, shoe polish, and much, much more. If there are no readily available jobs in the city, there will always be enterprising folk that finds a way.

The Spruce Meadows Market is such a way where you can bring your wares to market, and you can support your neighbour. We are glad we made the trip. We are glad we can meet our friends and neighbours at the market. Most importantly, we are glad that our money spent is going towards helping a neighbour grow his or her local business.

Merry Christmas!

Hendrik van Wyk
Christmas Cowboy

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Getting Ready

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